Thursday, July 13, 2017

Terrific Tips for Building Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships

Image by Speech Language Pirate

I've been teaching for twenty years now and I can honestly say that parent-teacher relationships are one of the most important (and often overlooked) keys to a successful school year. One difficult parent, or even one misunderstanding or miscommunication, can lead to a year from ... well, you know.

With that in mind, I posed a question on my Facebook page: How do you establish and maintain a good relationship with parents? Some awesome veteran teachers shared their wisdom. Although I originally intended to write this post for beginning teachers, the tips are so good that I think all teachers can find something new to implement!

Tip #1  First Impressions Matter!

Eliene's advice was echoed by other teachers. Laura Howland Aquilone says she "call[s] all my parents after the first week to get an at home perspective." Hilary Philpott-Gard says she tries "to send every parent a positive e-mail about their child by the end of the first month."

I know that I consider Meet the Teacher Day to be one of the most important days of the school year. It's my first opportunity to get to know parents and to let them get to know me. Letting them know that I care about their child as a person goes a long way toward starting a good relationship. I make phone calls to the parents who are unable to attend due to work or other commitments. It's so important for that first contact to be friendly and positive!

Tip #2  Keep It Positive!    

Crystal Cash White agrees. She advises, "Start the relationship early and keep it positive!" 

The First Grade Flair says, "Try to communicate positive things, too! So often teachers are just calling and emailing when something is wrong. Positive notes and calls go a long way in building trust between us and parents. I try to do 2 positive notes a week usually on a Friday and I track to make sure each student gets at least one a year." 

Believe me, this is excellent advice! I send home Happy Notes to my parents a few times a month. I keep track on a simple class roster in my communication binder to make sure everyone gets one. The parent's often surprised, yet happy reply never fails to make my day!

Tip #3 Make Parents Feel Welcome!

Linda Griffin had some great suggestions. "Have lots of special days that you invite the parents in to help with activities etc. We have Grandparents and Special Friends Day, Thanksgiving play and feast, Christmas/Holiday Spectacular, parents help make things and do activities, Field Trip Chaperones, Spring Fling/Easter egg hunt and activities, various other opportunities for parents to come in and share and then our Graduation and play. These help parents see their child and you interacting in the classroom."

Parents love to volunteer. Don't be afraid to ask parents to help in the class. Ask them to read or practice sight words with a child. If you have trouble giving up control, start a Guest Reader or Mystery Reader program to get them in. Ask them to help with copying, laminating, or other clerical tasks. You will help parents to feel welcome, build that relationship, and get some help with your overwhelming workload. It's a win-win!

Tip #4  Use Technology!

Other teachers suggested communication apps, as well. Donna Murphy writes, " I use Class Dojo with my class. Give parent[s] a look into what is going on and it is using technology. Something that is always looked for in a classroom."  Hilary Philpott-Gard uses Bloomz and sends "tons of pics in the first week or so." 

Deann Marin shared a great idea: "We do a video titled A Day in the Life of Your Child for parent night. We follow the kids to all their classes, PE, Art, etc, even to the cafeteria for lunch. We tape each other teaching. Parents love seeing their kids. They see first hand our teaching style. They can tell we care. Once they realize this, they're very happy. Great ice breaker."

Other teachers I know have a classroom Facebook page, Twitter account, or blog. Use the technology you're comfortable with to connect with parents.

Tip #5 Listen and Address Concerns!

This is such a great tip. Too often, teachers view parents as the enemy. It's important to remember that whether or not you agree with their concerns, parents are acting as their child's advocate. Take the time to listen and be as objective as you can when a parent raises a concern. Work together to find a solution.

Aren't these terrific tips? I know I was able to find something new to try this year. I hope you did, too. If you have a tip to share, please add it in the comments below!

If you're having a parent conference, make sure you check out the tips in this post.